Inspiration comes from many places during a person’s life. It can be something that has happened or something one has witnessed and often it comes from those individuals who are close to your heart.
In the case of J.D. Scholten, his inspiration came from his Grandma Fern.
J.D., son of former Nevada residents Jim and Deb Scholten, was born at Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames. He spent his early childhood years in Nevada, where is dad, Jim, was a teacher and coach at Nevada High School and his mom, Deb, was a respiratory therapist with Story County Medical Center.
Grandma Fern lived in northern Iowa on a farm, just outside of Lake Mills.
J.D. and his family, along with his sister Jessica, moved to Sioux City. As the years passed by, J,D, obtained his education and moved to the Seattle area. J.D. spent many hours on the baseball field, fine tuning his pitching skills, soaking up everything that his dad could teach him. Eventually, his love for the game and his career as a paralegal proved to be major accomplishments in his young life.
“In my baseball career, there are two things that stand out to me,” J.D. explained. “In 2002, I led the University of Nebraska in E.R.A.’s and we made it to the College World Series. In 2013, I was invited to play on a team that went to Cuba for ten days of exhibition games against Cuba’s top teams. That experience was probably the best experience I’ve had, on or off the field, in my life.”
“As a paralegal, I worked on several complex litigations,” he tells. “I have a lot of trial experience and a lot of experience in eDiscovery. However, I am most proud of my Pro Bono work while I was with Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi. There, I did the research to help a Cameroonian man gain asylum. One of the hardest things I have ever done was to listen to this man’s description of the torture he went through.”
Then a trip back home to Iowa last December changed everything.
“My inspiration, Grandma Fern, passed away last December,” he explained. “One of the last things she told me was that I should move back to Iowa and take care of our farm outside of Lake Mills. Being at her funeral, at the rural church where she was an active member for most of her life, I felt a strong pull to come home. Even though my years were small in number living in Nevada, I still remember our Nevada home next to the fairgrounds, attending Berry Patch School and the day my mom found a snake in our basement.”
J.D. told that it was about a month after his Grandma Fern’s death, when he had a moment of clarity.
“I remembered an article I had read a few years before that said life is not about the pursuit of happiness, but it’s about the pursuit of meaningfulness,” he said. “It was in that moment of clarity I realized that the most meaningful thing I could do is to move back home to Iowa and to fight for what I believe in.”
And that is exactly what he did. He purchased his family home in Sioux City and continued his career as a paralegal. He also told that the move back to Iowa snowballed into running for Congress in Iowa’s 4th District.
“One of the reasons I am back in Iowa and working to win the Congressional seat is due to my first law firm experience,” J.D. explained. “There I was surrounded by people who were civic-minded. We had a Senate candidate, a U.S. House of Representative candidate, a future mayoral candidate and the Secretary of State all in our office. A combination of that and being brought up with Iowa values of putting community above self is exactly what I would emphasize. I want to make Iowa and the 4th District proud. I want to be able to reach across the aisle and be productive.”
When asked what problems, difficulties and challenges he sees in Iowa right now, J.D. answered:
“I could be here all day,” he said with a smile. “I want to insure that Iowans never have to worry about health care as being a barrier to living a free, productive and successful life. Secondly, America has yet to find an answer to globalization. Iowa is at a crossroads but there’s a great opportunity. Because of renewable energy, our centralized locations, and our hard work ethic, Iowa has a potential to develop the new rural economy that is a blend of our traditional agriculture economy, advanced manufacturing and developing the technical jobs that will be on the doorstep soon. And thirdly, making sure our farms are equally economically and environmentally thriving to pass on to the next generation.”
J.D. responded to why he feels that he is the best candidate to represent the 4th District in the Congressional race by saying that he is a product of the 4th district.
“My father comes from Larchwood in the northwest corner. My mother comes from a farm just outside of Lake Mills in the northeast district. They met in Mason City as high school teachers, moved to Nevada and had me. I was raised in Sioux City and I understand the needs of the different parts of the district. Because of my time outside the district (both in Europe and in Seattle), I see the potential of what we can accomplish here. Lastly, I was bred to compete. There’s no one who will outwork me.”
J.D. tells that his greatest strength is a combination of his work ethic and desire. He also admits that one of his favorite jobs was that of playing professional baseball.
“I got paid peanuts for playing professional baseball, but being out there to play the game you love and competing on a professional level was priceless,” he commented.
True leadership to J.D. is having the respect of his friends and foes. And when he knows that he is right and others disagree, he stops and listens because he considers that an opportunity to learn. He feels that he finds strength in his calm demeanor.
When asked who his hero is, he did not hesitate to answer “veterans.” When asked who that special someone is that made a big impact on him, again, no hesitation to the answer “Grandma Fern.”
“Just because certain people are not around anymore, doesn’t mean that you stop learning from them,” he added.
Most proud of?
“My family. I am blessed to have parents that come from two great families,” he said.
Visiting about how the world might be different in five years, he had several ideas.
“America will have a better health care system that puts efficiency, sustainability and results over profits. Technology will be rapidly advancing allowing us to be more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. The United States will have an answer to globalization. And Highway 20 here in Iowa might finally be done,” he said smiling.
Making sure difficult decisions are handled by some more advice from Grandma Fern.
“My Grandma Fern always taught me to pray on things that require difficulty in decision-making.”
J.D. hopes to lead Iowa by example, by listening and absorbing information before formulating opinions.
Why would anyone want to work for the State of Iowa?
“Because the number one thing that defines me are my Iowa roots,” answered J.D. “My hard work ethic and patience and being transparent and being able to focus on goals and being a “representative” is one of my goals. Being a representative, meaning that I am just a middle class guy from Sioux City who has those strong Iowa roots that wants to put the people of the 4th District first.”
Success has a pretty logical definition for J.D.
“Success is at the end of the day knowing you gave it your all. I want to fight for the Iowa my grandmother gave me and to build an even greater Iowa for those who come after.”
If you get the opportunity to meet J.D. Scholten, and you think of some of our best “Iowa People,” this tall, energetic, diligent, warm and approachable young man will no doubt be the photo in your mind. He is a fifth generation Iowan that is the product of a long line of farmers and educators; you will see that he is someone who can both understand and relate to not just the people in the 4th District, but to all Iowans.
Welcome home, J.D. Scholten.